Friday, January 19, 2018

Read an excerpt! *Solomon`s Ring* Blog Tour


We hear the sounds at the same time. Jade and I don’t say a word; instead, we start walking faster. The footsteps behind us speed up as well, keeping pace. Whoever — or whatever — is following us clearly doesn’t feel the need to keep their presence secret.

My stomach does a nervous somersault. This isn’t good. During the last few months of training with our Protectors, we’ve been taught to recognize when a situation may be dangerous. And at this moment, every cell in my body is screaming that this is a code-red situation. My gut feeling is that Jade and I are not just being followed. We’re being hunted.

There are still four full city blocks to go before we’ll reach a lit street lamp, before we can turn off the tiny flashlight we’re carrying. Right now, other than the pathetically anorexic beam cast by our flashlight, we’re walking in complete darkness and the street is empty. Rolling electricity cuts are to blame for the lack of lighting; only a small number of street lamps are now turned on at night, and those are found almost exclusively on the city’s main streets or in the wealthiest neighbourhoods.
“Stop,” Jade whispers, and we stop walking at the exact same moment. We’re naturally synchronized like this; it’s a twin thing.

The footsteps stop too. And though I try not to, I can’t help thinking about the recent rash of abductions and murders in our city. Local news websites post daily updates and photos of the missing … and those found. Thing is, not many people fall under the found category. And those that have been found are not found alive … or in one piece. It’s a modern-day Jack the Ripper sort of thing. Or at least that’s what the media and police would like us to believe.

But as Seers we know better. We’re at war.

Jade and I begin walking again, this time more quickly. The night air is only slightly cooler than it was during the day, and the humidity, along with the adrenaline surging through me, makes my face slick with sweat. Instinctively, my hand moves to the oversized knapsack on my back. I run my fingers over the smooth surface of my bamboo pole. Though any sort of strong, pole-like structure will do, I made this pole in class at Beaconsfield. The bamboo is light but strong, which makes it easy to carry. We’re only supposed to use our poles in the most serious of circumstances, when we believe our lives are under immediate threat.

I listen. The footsteps are definitely closing in. This seems as good a time as any to use my pole.

Jade nods at me, her dark eyes solemn. “One, two …” she whispers.

At the count of three we swing around to confront our stalker. In one fluid motion, I pull my pole out of my knapsack. It slices through the air, making a sharp whistling sound as it moves. Ready to strike, I hold it across my body like a shield.

A wiry male figure stands less than five feet away. Jade directs the beam of the flashlight at his face, and even though it doesn’t illuminate much, I am startled by the chalky, grey-white colour of his skin and the cavernous, dark circles that frame his eyes.

Great. Some strung-out junkie thinks he’s going to mug us. I flex my arms, tightening the grip on my pole.

“Back off,” I say, keeping my voice low and even.

He doesn’t move or say a word in response. I feel Jade tense beside me. We’re like two cats, coiled and ready to spring. My newly developed muscles, the result of hours of daily training at Beaconsfield, give me confidence. This guy is likely high as a kite. That might make him less fearful, but he’s still nothing for two Seers to take on. Jade shines the flashlight beam at his face again. I see it before she says anything.

“Jazz. His eyes.” Her voice is barely a whisper, but the demon hears. In response it draws back its concrete- coloured lips. Razor-sharp teeth glisten at us. The smell of rust and decay hits my nostrils like a tsunami.

There’s only one. This means it will be a minor challenge for us, especially as I’m already armed. If anyone told me a year ago that I’d be killing demons, I’d have thought they were crazy. But after travelling to the Place-in-Between and seeing the armies of demons that reside down there for myself, there’s nothing I won’t believe. Tell me I’ve been signed up for riding lessons on a unicorn and I’ll ask if pulling on its horn will make it stop galloping.

Without any warning, the demon rushes at Jade. She scurries backward, moving just out of its reach as it lunges for her face.

I dart forward, keeping my centre of gravity low, and swing my pole, throwing my entire body weight behind it while aiming for the soft part of the demon’s neck. The only way to destroy one of these creatures is to behead it. I wait for the satisfying impact of rattan against flesh.

This demon is fast, though, much faster than the ones I encountered in the Place-in-Between. And as it grabs my pole and tries to wrench it out of my grasp, I discover it’s also much stronger.

Jade is beside me in an instant. The sticky, humid air is causing my hands to sweat, making my grip on the pole even more tenuous.

“You’re not armed. Get back,” I shout at her. I’m not willing to lose her again. I already spent nearly half my life believing she was dead and that it was my fault, so I’m not going to risk having it happen for real now.

The demon takes advantage of the split second I shift my focus to Jade and gives the pole another hard tug. This time it slips through my fingers like water.

I immediately backflip away from the demon, but it still manages to catch my lower legs with the pole. The wood smashes against my shins, causing me to scream with pain. Flickering stars fill my vision, and my legs give out from under me as I land.

Excerpted from Solomon’s Ring by Mary Jennifer Payne © 2018, Mary Jennifer Payne. All rights reserved. Published by Dundurn Press.

1 comment: